Gather Your Party

When it comes to regularly playing TTRPGs, one of the biggest hurdles is getting enough people together to make it worthwhile. At least, that’s what I always thought – until I realised that you can make it much easier on yourself by setting realistic goals.

TL;DR Start small with short games and either play with friends if possible or an existing group.

A selection of Funkos in front of a DM screen, along with a map of Waterdeep, a spellbook, and some potion bottles
“You must gather your party before venturing forth.” — Narrator, Baldur’s Gate

Initially, when I planned this series on how to start GMing, I imagined that you’d want to run a long-term campaign, possibly lasting decades. I mean, obviously. That’s what I wanted to do when I started, right? Right? Okay, so maybe not. Maybe there’s a better way.

Turns out, you don’t need to plan the ultimate campaign. In fact, to be a GM, you never need to run an epic campaign. Sometimes, the best you can do is start small. Not only are you more likely to succeed, you may even end up having more fun while you’re doing it.

Of course, I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I’ve been gaming for a long time, and it’s easy to collect bad habits.

With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the advice I’d give myself before I start another group.

Speaking of which, putting together a TTRPG group is a complicated subject, so this is only the first of several posts about it.

Why you need to set realistic expectations

When you try to get a group together, it’s easy to get carried away – especially if you have high expectations for yourself. It helps to be practical, though. So while you’re looking for people to take on your grand adventure, remember the following tips when you run into difficulties. Because you will run into problems, but it’s worth sticking with it.

For one thing, don’t think about it like you’re putting together your One True Group, the one you’ll be playing with for years and years. You don’t need to complete some grandiose quest to find companions to accompany you on your never-ending campaign of epic proportions.

If you do end up putting together the Fellowship of the Ring and playing together for decades – great! But putting too much pressure on yourself or your group is a sure-fire way to take the fun out of it for everyone.

Even if you end up running games for a long time, your first group will only be one of many. While tabletop RPGs can be a lot of fun, it isn’t for everyone. You may need to introduce six, twelve, or even more people to TTRPGs before you find three or four who want to – or can – play regularly.

So what’s my solution?

Initially, you might think that all of this is a bigger obstacle than it really is. For one thing, there are two potential solutions to this problem. You can simply agree to play shorter games so you play less often, or you can play with fewer people.

Of course, you can always do both. And that’s exactly what I am suggesting you should do.

This strategy also solves an even bigger problem. What is harder than not having enough players? Finding players who can play on a regular basis, like each other enough to get along, and are interested in playing the same game, the same setting, and the same campaign. This kind of happy coincidence is quite rare, and often doesn’t last longer than a single campaign anyway.

Even if you do find enough people who want to play often, everyone in your group may not enjoy games for the same reasons. Believe me. It’s hard enough for experienced GMs with lots of gaming friends to find people who all want to play in a particular campaign.

What’s next?

Eventually I’ll write blog posts that cover the problems you might encounter if you do decide to try a long, epic campaign. That won’t be for some time, though. Instead, the next few gaming-related posts will focus on ways that you can play less time-consuming games, or play them with fewer people.

Fortunately, as you’ll discover, you need fewer players than you think. And there are many wonderful short games that you can try out (shameless plug!) with friends, to give everyone the chance to find out whether they want to join you in your (not so epic) quest of hanging out, having fun, and playing some games.

In the meantime, speak to some of your friends and try to find 2-3 who would be interested in playing an RPG. Who knows, you may be surprised. Start talking to them about what appeals to them about the idea, or how much they know about it.